Talk Science to Me

Throughout the past 7 weeks, the research fellows have had the great privilege of listening to some amazing faculty speakers. From Dr. Nowicki investigating bird song to Dr. David collecting fecal matter for microbiome analysis, I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to the exciting research Duke faculty are doing and how they ended up doing research. One specific talk titled “Epigenome editing in neurons with dCas9 fusion protein” by Dr. Anne West really caught my interest because of both the science and the life lessons shared during the one hour she had with us.

Dr. West spoke about the changes in gene expression when neurons are fired and how the environment can play a role in DNA methylation which results in a changes in the epigenome. She talked about using the new technology of CRISPR-Cas9 to aid her research and emphasized that research is heavily based on the tools available at the time.

Although I found her science very interesting, her final note was what really stuck with me. She shared with us her lab’s mission statement which is:
“To answer vigorously defined questions,
To reveal something new about the brain,
To enjoy the process of discovery.”

These statements allowed me to reflect on my own choices when doing research. The first statement about answering questions emphasizes both the importance of asking good questions and having the resilience to answer them. The second statement highlights the importance of doing novel research rather than repeat experiments. The third statements underscores the fact that research needs to be fun and it is pointless to do something that isn’t. Research consumes a lot of time, energy, and resources so it is important to enjoy the process. These statements have made me realize that research is probably something I do wish to pursue because I enjoy spending time in the lab and asking and finding answers to relevant questions.

Dr. West was an amazing and inspirational speaker and I hope that I can take the lessons she shared and use them to motivate me in my path to pursuing research in the future.

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